It had to happen sooner or later.
He has business on the University campus. He walks into a student bar and ‘the lover’ is there. Their eyes meet across the room, and footsteps follow glances. They’re face-to-face and eye to eye.
His conversation alternates between threats and pleading. ‘The lover’ often feigns misunderstanding or innocence. ‘The lover’ takes no responsibility:
“She is a free women…she makes her own choices…”
“She is my wife, and the mother of our children…”
Resolution could never happen here. He just feels humiliated and emasculated.
He wonders what she’ll say when she finds out…
They talk a lot over the weeks that follow…making certain nothing ever happens “in front of the children” or anyone else for that matter. He punishes himself by trying too hard to understand.
“What’s it like, with him?”. “How does he make you feel?” “I want to understand why he’s better than me?” “What can I do to change how you feel?”
She seems entranced, almost bewitched or overcome by a kind of insanity. Her behaviour seems to transcend all his understanding of faithfulness and what he thought was their shared faith
Sometimes, as they talk, she backs him into a corner, from which he can find no logical escape. He lashes out in a torrent of pent-up anger, frustration and incomprehension. She cowers, more certain than ever that her behaviour is justified
Afterwards he just feels worse. How could he be so clumsy? That certainly wasn’t the way to keep the marriage alive, to repair the damage done unknowingly in the past.
The longer things go on, the more it seems to happen…
The husband is the minister of a small, inner city church. In the short time he’s been there things have changed. Broken relationships have been healed. The church has become more inclusive. People are growing in their faith and inroads are being made into the local community.
He cannot burden this fragile church with his own pain. He does not fear their ignorant judgement, just their inability to cope. So he bottles it up behind a mask of activity, and it’s business as usual.
The young couple are with him for marriage preparation. He helps them to dig deeply into the joy and pain of marriage, the pitfalls and the ways to keep the relationship vibrant and alive. He doesn’t feel in the slightest bit hypocritical…he still passionately wants to make his own marriage work and he uses his own anonymous failures in an attempt to give the young couple the tools to survive and thrive in marriage.
Later, much later, when he has finally admitted that this relationship is beyond saving, the young couple say to him,
“Did it mean anything, was it real, all those things you taught us about marriage?”
He hopes they believe his affirmative reply…they have no idea just how much he meant every word.
In the weeks ahead it comes out, slowly, painfully.
She’s been seeing someone else at university. He’s younger and better looking. He makes her feel good about herself and so alive. He’s Turkish and sooo romantic.
Now he’s woken up to what’s going on and more aware her husband begins to wonder if this lover is the first. He realises he may have seen these signs before.
Love is dying in the wake of betrayal. He feels naked and foolish; he imagines that the whole world must know, and sniggers behind his back when he’s around.
In reality no one else knows his awful secret yet. He carries the shame alone.
He is in complete turmoil. He cannot eat…he loses a lot of weight very quickly. He cannot sleep…he stays downstairs with night-time TV as his only company.
Through his tears he repeats, over and over, “What am I going to do…what am I going to do?” This is the only prayer he can manage…his faith seems empty and impotent.
Then, one morning three weeks later he wakes up…he has fallen asleep on the sofa. It is morning, and he goes into the kitchen to make a cup of tea.
Suddenly it hits him, a strange and unfamiliar assurance…
Nothing has changed, but everything is different.
He feels hungry, so he eats a bowl of cereal.
It’s Christmas Eve when she breaks the news. “I’m going to do what’s good for me, see who I want to see. I’m going to do things for me for a change. I have a right to be happy.”
He hasn’t seen it coming…but suddenly her erratic timetable and the growing distance between them falls into place. He struggles to make sense of what it will mean for him and the children.
They go round to the home of friends from church for an evening of strained and difficult Christmas celebration.
Family life will never be the same again…
I’m just reading “An Almighty Passion: Meeting God in Ordinary Life” by Alan Hargrave.
It’s a collection of moving and thought-provoking stories from the authors experience of living and working on a Cambridge housing estate and in Argentina and Bolivia, in sections centred around the themes of Trinity, Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection.
In these stories, from the painfully poignant to the touchingly humerous and joyful, we get glimpses of God in the everyday, flashes of insight in the ordinary.
Theology has never been so compelling.
- An Almighty Passion (bpdt.wordpress.com)